LSI Czar’s Ukase II – Prepare Students to Practice Law

(Note the use of the Roman numerals in the title. While it might be inconsistent with a Russian theme, I thought it might gain the status of the NFL Super Bowl.)

When asked whether a new law school graduate is ready to practice law, most say “No.”

The basis for the problem is that for over one hundred years law schools have seen their mission as teaching students how to think like a lawyer – what might be referred to as a Graduate School Model, uniformly rejecting the medical school approach which prepares students to practice their profession – the Professional School Model. The MacCrate report strongly criticizes law schools for their heavy reliance on the Socratic method and appellate case analysis as somewhat effective in teaching legal reasoning and research but not so for the other eight fundamental skills needed by the practitioner (problem solving, factual investigation, communication, counseling, negotiation, litigation and ADR, organization and management of legal work, recognizing and resolving ethical dilemmas.

“Relatively few law students have exposure to the full range of professional skills offerings. The Task Force found that the majority of graduating law students had four of fewer skills “experiences” (simulated skills, clinics, externships or others) while in law school… professional skills training occupies only nine (9%) of the total instructional time available at law schools.” MacCrate Report, p 240 based on 1990-91 data.

With millions suffering because of inaccessibility of legal services, we need to insure that thousands of law students each year do not abandon their hopes and visions of using their legal training to help individuals, effect social change or simply serve the legal needs of the public. We need to provide them the training they need to be able to do so. .

“What would we say of a medical school where students were taught surgery solely from the printed page? No one, if he could do otherwise, would teach the art of playing golf by having the teacher talk about golf to the prospective player and having the latter read a book relating to the subject” Judge Frank, MSL p. 166

Within 60 days all law schools will submit to my office a report which includes:

For the current academic year, the number of clinical and the number of simulated teaching courses including how many available slots for each class there are and what percentage that represents of all slots for all classes.

A tentative curriculum for the next academic year at least half of which courses will be experiential and at least half of those will be simulated (teacher will present information or a concept, the student will “perform” and the student will then be evaluated – a pedagogical approach less expensive than clinics.) The plan will include assurances that those teaching the courses have or will secure the education required to teach such courses.

For both the current list of course offerings and the tentative curriculum for the next academic year, please note for each course which of the ten fundamental skills will be taught in that course as well as the components of experiential instruction incorporated in any course.

I expect that every law school graduate will be a professional; i.e., have knowledge of a craft, autonomy, be treated with respect and do meaningful work serving clients who need their services.